Bastille day is just around the corner and instead of letting 'em eat cake why not serve up something a tad more respectable? Rack of lamb for instance with a tasty herb pesto crust and a fashionable side dish of ratatouille. After all, you don't want your head on the platter at the end of the meal. You wouldn't want to insult your guests while they're starving to death with just a plain ol' piece of cheap stale bread. So treat them like the royalty they are...
Lamb is easy to prepare for a crowd and beautiful presented on plates. The curve of lamb's small thin bones always adds artistic flare. It can be carved table side for added entertainment or plated secretly in the kitchen. Cooked rare to medium-rare, it's sure to provide a revolutionary red to the plates.
Everyone wants to try ratatouille thanks to the movie, but sadly most ratatouille is like an overcooked vegetable swamp that tastes as awful as it smells. I prefer a quickly cooked eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and basil melange served up in a tomato cup and topped with a fried basil flag. It's fresh tasting and a perfect compliment for lamb. Use any vegetable trimmings from the ratatouille in the jus for an extra whack! Add some crusty 'cake' to sop up all the drippings or an elegant baguette.
Although many a beheaded beauty preferred sugary sweet french treats as their dernier dîner, a rich dark chocolate final ending is sure to send guests straight to heaven. The idea is not to weigh down the guests during the meal but to give them just enough hope to carry on. Silky pots de crème will make a lasting impression and are simple to prepare ahead of time without extra fuss during the meal.
Besides, unless you have servants or a hired cook, it is deathly important to keep both eyes on the party. Happy Fête National!
For the rack of lamb recipe click on "continue reading Storm the Bastille..." recipe serves 10 people.
Carré d'Agneau aux Herbes Pesto et Ratatouille
6 racks of lamb frenched, figure 3 chops per person
5 sprigs rosemary
1/2 bunch thyme
6 stalks of basil
1 cup grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon balsamic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cans beef stalk, no salt
1 shallot chopped
1/2 onion chopped
10 medium tomatoes
2 medium zucchinis diced
2 medium firm chinese eggplants diced
2 red peppers diced
2 green peppers diced
4 cloves garlic minced
2 whole shallots diced
5 stalks basil, leaves thinly cut
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
fleur de sel
Pesto Crusted Rack of Lamb
1. Make sure that lamb bones have been frenched properly and that there is no fat on the upper third of the bone. Trim any fat on the surface of lamb that is yellowish in color. There should be no more than 1/8th inch covering of lamb fat for this recipe.
2. Brown meat and cool before applying pesto herb crust. This can be done an hour before guests arrive. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Generously season lamb on all sides with salt and pepper. When olive oil is hot (and I mean hot! Or it won't sear properly!!!) place one rack fat side down to brown (two racks if the pan is large enough). Brown on all sides and return to a baking dish afterwards to cool. Repeat with all racks of lamb discarding of lamb fat if too much accumulates in skillet.
3. While lamb is cooling, mince all herbs and mix with olive oil, parmesan, and balsamic vinegar. It should resemble a moist paste that is easy to spread. If it needs more olive oil or you prefer one of the herb flavors, adjust to your liking. Reserve the stems from the basil, thyme, and rosemary for the lamb jus.
4. Once the rack of lamb has cooled score the fat side of the lamb lightly in a crisscross pattern. Spread the pesto over and allow to marinate for up to one hour before.
5. Place lamb flat pesto side up in a hot oven at 450˚F for 12 minutes. This might require more than one baking pan. If possible stand racks on end propping up against other racks for remaining 3 minutes. Check lamb for doneness by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part. When thermometer registers 140˚F take out for medium-rare chops. Let the temp rise five more degrees to 145˚F if you like chops a little closer to medium. Remember the internal temp will rise at least 5˚ outside the oven. Let the racks rest tented for ten minutes before carving. This is important for lamb in order for the flesh to re-absorb the juices. Rack of lamb tends to dry out and taste leathery if cooked beyond medium.
6. Drain lamb fat from baking pan reserving two tablespoons and place back on a low burner. Sauté onion and shallot in lamb fat until carmelized but not burned. Deglaze with beef stock and scrape up and pan drippings. Add stalks of thyme, rosemary, and basil and any pepper trimmings from the ratatouille. Simmer on low heat. Add any jus from resting lamb rack. Strain and serve. Jus is thin like water it is not a sauce or gravy so there is no need to thicken it.
1. 1/4 " dice all vegetables the same exact size. Reserve in separate bowls until ready to sauté.
2. For tomato cups blanch by cutting a shallow 'X' in the bottom of tomato and plunging into boiling water for five seconds. Chill immediately in an ice water bath. With a pairing knife peel back skin from the shallow 'X'. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally. Reserve top half for another purpose, with bottom half remove seeds and drain on a paper towel. Reserve cups for filling of ratatouille.
3. To make ratatouille, heat olive oil on medium high and add garlic and shallots. Do not brown, but cook until translucent. Add egg plant and cook for 3 minutes. Egg plant is funny to cook because it appears dry but after a minute or two will release it's juices. If necessary add a little more olive oil to pan to keep egg plant from sticking. But not too much because the fruit will suck it all up. Add zucchini and peppers and cook for 3 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Vegetables should be cooked but a little crunchy. Remove from heat and stir in red wine vinegar and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Don't be afraid to add more basil or a little more vinegar if need be.
4. Heat plates hot. Serve tomato cup filled with ratatouille and 3 lamb chops along side. Cover with jus and a sprinkle chops with a little fleur de sel. Serve a some parmesan at the table for guests who might want a little on their ratatouille
Note: I don't always serve a starch on the diner plate if there are many courses in the meal because it can be too filling and so many people are trying to cut carbs, however mashed potatoes would go nicely with this recipe. I press peeled and boiled potatoes through a drum sieve before whisking in an insane amount of butter and a little milk. Serve a dollop next to the tomato.